Thursday, April 26, 2012

Historic Series Has An End

Capitals 2, Burins 1 OT Washington wins series 4-3
Game Summary - Event Summary

It was an incredibly tight series. It was unheard of to go six straight games decided by one goal. Well, make that seven games. It would take overtime in game seven to decide a winner in this tight checking, defensive struggle and it would be a Joel Ward pouncing on a loose puck in front of Tim Thomas just under three minutes into the overtime period to eliminate the reigning Stanley Cup Champions and move to round two. The Capitals do away with the Bruins four games to three with a 2-1 win at TD Garden.

"It's what hockey is all about," Caps coach Dale Hunter said of the win in game seven. "Winning it in overtime in the seventh game, that's something special and well deserved by our guys."

It would be the unsung heroes that would show up big for the Washington Capitals in game seven. Matt Hendricks scored his first goal of the series when Milan Lucic misplayed the puck along the half boards. Jason Chimera picked up the gift, banked the pass back to John Carlson who took a quick shot at the net. Hendricks got his stick on the wrister and deflected it past Thomas for the games first goal in the first period.

The Bruins would storm back and in the second period would finally capitalize on a Braden Holtby mistake in the second period. The Caps' goaltender couldn't contain a point shot and it trickled behind him, Tyler Seguin dove for the loose puck behind Hotby and slammed it into the open net. The tying goal came in the later moments of the second period and it looked like the goal re-energized the Bruins offensive push and they took it to the young goaltender.

(Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
Rich Peverley tried to rattle the rookie goaltender after Holtby pushed him away from the crease. He turned and faked a slash on the Caps' netminder. Holtby crossed his arms and didn't even flinch. It mirrored the Capitals demeanor all series long, they didn't get goaded into the Bruins dirty play and get worn down by their hard checking style. They played a patient game and it proved to be a great strategy against the reigning Cup champs. The teams' calm demeanor seem to come from their rookie goaltender.

As Holtby stood strong, the Caps followed suit and over time would seem inevitable. In the over time period,  Patrice Bergeron almost won it for the Bruins when a point shot rebounded to him, but he sharked the shot and the puck harmlessly drifted wide of the net. Just a couple of minutes later, the Bruins, who were going for a line change, turned the puck over by hitting Mike Knuble with the dump in pass. Knuble was able to quickly bring it up the ice and force a two on one with Ward breaking in on this right side. Knuble fought off the backchecker to get a backhanded shot off. Ward, instead of going to the side of the net, cut in front and stabbed at the loose puck that beat Thomas stick side to end the game and the series.

"I was just trying to follow [Knuble] up just in case the puck [was] loose," Ward said of his series ending, overtime goal. "I just kind of saw it and I gave it one of the hardest whacks I have ever given the puck."

The top lines for both teams seemed to be quieted by the tough defense both teams played. No points for the Caps big four of Alex Ovechkin, Alex Semin, Nick Backstrom and Mike Green.

Special teams continued to be critical in this series. The Caps couldn't score on their only power play chance in the third period when Bergeron took a hooking call. Alex Ovechkin, who had been muffled for most of the game had a glorious chance when Mike Green found him open across the slot. But Dennis Seidenberg reached out with his leg and stopped the shot that was destined for the back of the net. But the Caps were able to kill all three of their penalties and held the Bruins scoreless with the extra man advantage. Including a golden opportunity in the dying minutes of the third period when Chimera was called for holding with 2:26 left on the clock.

"That was the probably the most frustrating part of our game was that power play that could have ended the series and the game," Bruins coach Claude Julien said after the game. "But I guess when you look at the whole picture I think it was more than that."

The more Julien was referring to was a very tight series between the Capitals and the Bruins. Through the seven games only 40 shots separated the two teams (208 for the Caps, 248 for the Bs). Only 5 power play goals were scored from a combined 42 chances. The Caps were 3 for 19, Bs were 2 for 23. But there was a glaring difference in totals for shots blocked; 92 for the Bruins and 139 for the Caps. Sacrificing the body and having good puck support in front of Holtby were key to winning against the Bruins.

"[They] have a great team over there," Hunter said of the Bruins. "We know what they are all about, they have character over there. It took everything we had. We have great character guys too and that is why it came down to seven games, one goal. That's unheard of ... You have to credit both teams for that."

"It was a challenging year for our guys," Julien said. "It was a challenging series as well. [The Capitals] made it tough on us and they deserve a lot of credit for the way that they played and the number of shots they blocked and how they helped their goaltender through and their young goaltender played extremely well."

"Seven one goal games, you don't get that very often," Holtby said of the Bruins and the tight series. "I am proud of our team, how we out dueled the defending Stanley Cup Champs. They're a great team as they showed last year and this year. The way they play is true to playoff hockey and it shows a lot about our character in here."

Caps Notes:
  • The Capitals second round scenarios pan out like this: If the Rangers defeat Ottawa, Caps will play the Rangers. If Ottawa wins, the Caps would play either the Flyers or the Devils depending on the outcome of the NJ/Florida game seven tomorrow night. Got it?
  • All 18 of the Capitals playoff wins in the last four years have come with a rookie goaltender in net.
  • This is the first time in NHL history all seven games were decided by one goal. Four games were decided in overtime while two other games were decided with in the last two minutes of the game.

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